How to Get a Broken Key Out of a Car Ignition

Preparing the Keyway

For any of the methods below, you'll want to reduce as much friction as possible. While this step isn't necessary, it can help significantly.

The most effective way to do this is by spraying a little lubricant into the keyway.

Ideally, you'll want to use dry lubricants such as graphite or Teflon. An excellent dry lubricant for locks is Houdini Lock Lube. However, for a full list of my top recommendations, check out my article What Are the Best Lock Lubricants?

However, you can also use oil-based lubricants, such as WD-40. Keep in mind that oil-based lubricants leave a residue within the lock that can collect dirt and cause a grimy buildup on the internal components.

Method 4 of 4: Call a locksmith

Step 1: Call a locksmith. If you don’t have the right tools on hand, the best thing to do is to call for a locksmith.

They’ll be able to extract your broken key and make a duplicate key for you on-the-spot.

A broken key in a lock can feel like a total disaster but you can save some cash and solve the problem yourself in most cases with just a few simple tools. Once you get the broken part out of the lock cylinder, a locksmith can make a duplicate even if the key is in two pieces. If you have any issues with your key’s ability to turn in your ignition, have one of YourMechanic’s mobile mechanics perform an inspection.


What Not to Do When Removing a Broken Key from Ignition

There are some things you should never do when you

There are some things you should never do when your key breaks inside the ignition. Some of these methods are recommended but can cause more damage to your ignition cylinder. This could cost you more time and money to repair.

1.     Don’t use magnets

Magnets are great at attracting metal and iron filings. However, they are not ideal for a broken key that’s stuck inside the ignition because small metallic debris and filings can cause damage to your ignition or block it.

2.     Don’t use melted plastic

Another common solution is to melt the plastic end of a pen casing and stick it onto the protruding part of the broken key. When the plastic cools and dries, the owner is supposed to pull it out. This may not work because more strength is normally needed to pull out the key.

Furthermore, the melted plastic can find its way into the spaces left on the side of the key and go deep into the ignition cylinder. This will only make the job harder. You’ll now have to find a way of removing the plastic and key at the same time.

3.     Don’t use super glue

Another common method used to remove a broken key from the ignition involves applying some super glue on a thin strip of metal or jigsaw blade and stick into the ignition cylinder. The bond between the metal and the stuck key helps to remove the key easily.

Sometimes, the glue can bond with the internal parts of the ignition cylinder and make it harder for you to remove the broken key. This is a job that will require a professional locksmith to perform. You’ll also need to buy a replacement ignition cylinder for your car.

4.     Don’t use a screwdriver

Some people use a screwdriver to remove their broken keys from the ignition. Even if this works, it will ruin the cylinder and affect its ability to hold the key, and even prevent it from turning while inside. A damaged ignition will definitely cost you more money to repair or replace.

5.     Don’t spray cleaners or lubricants

Many people use lubricants and cleaners to remove debris and to make the process of removing a broken key easier. This often helps to make the job simpler but can also damage the ignition lock. The chemicals used in many cleaners tend to react with the internal components of the cylinder and mess it up. This is a common problem that occurs in newer vehicles that have more features and electrical components.

The Online Hack that Really Works! – Glue Gun Stick

There’s been a lot of online chatter under the title “life hacks” that use a glue stick from a glue gun to remove a broken key like these glue sticks at Amazon.

We wanted to try this out and it really works!

Glue Stick Key Extraction Works, But Is Tricky
Glue Stick Key Extraction Works, But Is Tricky

The idea is to soften the tip of the glue stick, and then press it into the key hole. If the glue softens enough to let it mold to the key and then hardens around the key or some of the broken metal edges, it may be extracted.

It can be done successfully but it’s not a slam dunk like the online videos show. We got it to work, but we discovered several things in the process.

Depending on how the key is broken, there may not be a sharp metal edge for the glue to hold onto the key blade during extraction. What we discovered is that the force needed to pull the glue stick off the flat part of the key cylinder also breaks the glue stick off the edge of the key.

    • To help with this, trim the glue stick edge to a point and push that into the key hole.
    • Move the glue stick very slowly from side to side so that it breaks off the face of the cylinder on each side of the keyhole before pulling on the glue stick. This will enable a more gentile pull go the glue stick stays on the edge of the key.
  • On a few attempts the glue stick got the key out of the hole only slightly, but it was enough so that I could use needle nose pliers to grab it and pull it out.

Check Out Our Video: Can You Remove a Broken Key Using a Glue Stick?

The latest “life hack” making it’s way around the internet is to remove a broken key using a glue stick from a glue gun. I was intrigued. Is this really possible?

Quick Prep

This preparation is optional, but it will make the process easier. Begin by applying a lubricant to the keyway. The lubricant should ideally use graphite or some other form of dry lubrication. Oil-based lubricants, such as standard WD-40 will work, but they can gum up the internals of the lock. After a short bit of time, there may be some trouble with the smoothness of the plug rotation. The only issue with a graphite spray is that it will stain things very easily.

Make sure that you have lined up the nozzle of the lubricant so that it is inside the keyway before you spray. You will also need a rag or paper towel to remove any of the excess lube that spills out of the keyway. Also, grab a pair of needle-nose pliers, because even though these methods will remove the broken key, pliers will help to get it out that much faster. Once enough of the key is accessible, you can just pull it free with your pliers.

3. Hacksaw Blade

If you don’t want to buy a specialty broken key extractor, you can make one yourself out of a mini hacksaw blade. (This will also work with small jigsaw blades.) What you want is a thin piece of metal that will be able to fit in your keyway along with your broken key, so the smaller the better. If needed, break the blade with some needle nose pliers so that you can insert the serrated edge into the lock.

If the serrations on your blade are on an angle, place the blade in the keyway so that the serrations are pointing back toward you. This will allow the blade to go in easier, and hook the key easier. You can use this similar to the broken key extractor by lining up the serrations on the blade with the bitting on the key. With a turn and a pull, your broken key should be out. If the key does not come out on your first attempt, then simply try again. This method is perfect when you have some blades lying around, or still have the means to travel to a hardware store.

Quick TipDo not force the blade into the keyway. If it does not fit smoothly, make adjustments to the blade. It must be thin enough to fit in the keyhole and pass alongside the broken key fragment.

Final Thoughts

Breaking a key in a lock doesn't have to be an ugly nightmare, and I hope this guide helped alleviate some panic.

While we covered 11 tried-and-true methods, there are endless other ways to remove a broken key from a lock—with a bit of creativity, of course.

If you would like to learn more about lock picking, locksmithing, and home security, be sure to check out my Academy for more free guides. Also, consider dropping by the Art of Lock Picking shop for all your lock picking and locksmithing tool needs! Just be careful, lock picking is addictive!

Have a wonderful day, and as always, happy picking!

Method 2 of 4: Use a jigsaw blade

Materials Needed

Step 1: Lubricate the lock. Spray some lock lubricant into the lock cylinder.

Step 2: Slide the blade into the lock. Take your hand jigsaw blade and carefully slide it into the lock cylinder.

Step 3: Pull the blade out of the lock. When the h

Step 3: Pull the blade out of the lock. When the hand jigsaw blade stops sliding, you’ve reached the end of the lock cylinder.

Carefully turn the jigsaw blade towards the key and try to catch the blades on a tooth (or several teeth) of the key. Slowly pull the jigsaw blade out of the lock.

Step 4: Pull out the broken key. Once a small portion of the broken key emerges from the key cylinder, use your needle-nose pliers to pull the broken key out completely.

Key Stuck in Ignition: In Conclusion…

Car keys aren’t really something we pay attention to since they don’t really require any maintenance. However, they may become damaged over time and this can cause them to get stuck in the ignition cylinder. The good news is that carmakers are moving away from traditional keys and are now using fobs that simply stick into a port or can even communicate wirelessly and all you need to do is press a button.

If you have an older car or still have conventional keys for your car, check your key condition regularly for signs of damage and bending. Also check if there is any tape or adhesive residue on the key, as these can cause the key to getting stuck in the ignition cylinder.

Also, since car keys are quite expensive to replace, we remind you to be mindful of your belongings and not lose your car keys. A replacement key is anywhere between $200 – $500 and that is a high price to pay just because you lost a key.

How to Get a Broken Key Out of a Lock

  1. Spray WD-40 or a similar penetrating oil into the keyhole to help the broken key piece slide out more easily.
  2. Use a flat head screwdriver to turn the lock back to its default position if it is not already.
  3. Insert needle-nosed pliers and try to grab the the broken key piece and pull out.
  4. If that doesn’t work, try what locksmiths use: a jigsaw. Insert one into the keyhole with the teeth facing downward until it can grab the broken key piece, which you can then pull out.
  5. And if you still can’t remove the broken key, you ought to call an expert locksmith like Paragon Security.

Contact us to find out how our expert staff can quickly and easily remove your broken key, without breaking the bank or your lock.


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